On the ‘other’ side of the waterbreak large bands of waves were crashing in, the result of the previous day’s strong north wind. (Larger than they look in this photo because I’m looking down on a steep shore.)
Moving to a favourite picnic table, overlooking the shore, the large boulders exposed, only small waves lapping through bands of seaweed. I’ve been here many times in the nearly 10 years we’ve been on Skye, but I think this was the lowest I’ve ever seen the tide.
I realised that for once I wasn’t staring into the distance, but was being mesmerized by the pattern on the shore. So out came the black ink, followed by a pot of an opaque fluid-acrylic orange that I grabbed as I headed out my studio from where it’s been sitting waiting to be tried for the first time.
Yes, I am applying it with a stick. It gives a randomness to the marks. And, yes, this stick does live in my pencil box because sticks can be hard to find in some locations.
Then, some “sea colours”, in acrylic inks. Payne’s grey, marine blue. A splash of acid yellow-green. Watercolour paper, 350gsm, A3 size.
It’s abstract, but I like it. For me it’s got a sense of location (though seashore, not necessarily Camus Mor) and the breeze in my hair. What others will see and feel, I can only guess.
I’ve been painting some small 15x20cm canvases alongside the large commission I’m working on. I’m now trying to decide which of these two, both inspired by Talisker Bay, is my favourite.
Just when I think it’s the one on the left, the one on the right tugs at me. Which would you choose (post a blog comment and let me know)? Both do feel a bit wintry to be painted in summer; it was sunny and warm in my studio, so perhaps at a subconscious level I was feeling a bit too hot. .
“Some of the dullest pictures in the world are done by painters who dutifully observe the rules
“… some of the most interesting have come from artists who … took risks, who daringly tried out concepts and techniques just to see if they might possibly work despite rules.” — Edward Betts, Creative Seascape Painting, page 46
Know what the rules of painting and drawing are, aim to break them deliberately not inadvertently, and take the time to decide whether it enhances or detracts. All too often it’s how you break the rule, not the mere breaking of it that will determine its success or failure.
Take “though shalt not place a horizon line at the midpoint as it divides a composition in half”. To me, in this painting it doesn’t:
I think it doesn’t because of the echo between the band of rocky shore and the band of islands, the band of sea and the band of sky.? The upper half is divided roughly one third islands two thirds sky, while the lower half can be divided in two (counting the rocks and spray as one) or three (sea, spray, rocks). I feel the wider band of sky dominates and distracts the eye from the halfway horizon. I think the proportions of the canvas, so wide to the height, also help as it’s not easy to see both side edges simultaneously (well, in real life, not a small photo!).
Did I do it deliberately? I don’t know, I don’t recall. I only know it’s not where I typically place the horizon. Maybe it’s time I did it again.
This new seascape painting is headed to Skyeworks Gallery this morning. It’s inspired, as many of my painting are, by the changing light over the Minch, this time the dance of late snow showers blowing in from the north. Known as lambing snow, because it comes after some lambs have already been born (though hereabouts most crofters lamb late to avoid it). Ne’er cast a clout till May be out and all that.
It’s done as a diptych, two 70x70cm canvases making it 140x70cm. This makes transporting it (and shipping if needed) so much easier. But also varnishing! Disadvantage is there’s more edge to paint.
The last coat of varnish is drying on the second of two big sheep paintings — each 100x100cm — that I finished in October.?One is reserved (someone who asked for first option on my next sheep paintings, and now I’m arranging for her to see it in ‘real life’ not just a photo) and one that will probably be heading south with me next week when I set off to the Christmas fairs at York (Living North Christmas Fair at York Racecourse) and Glasgow (Country Living Christmas Fair at SECC).
There’s something contrary (but delightful) finding out on a gloriously sunny day that my “Storm Warning” painting has sold. It’ll be heading “across the pond” to Massachusetts. The painting is one of my more wildly big-brush expressive pieces, as the detail photo of the brushwork below shows.
Being a gloriously sunny and not too windy day, I took a work-in-progress done on two 50x50cm canvases taped together outside to dry. Wanting to keep it out of studio cat reach, I propped it up in the rose hedge. The in-house art critic’s comment when he saw: “Are you hedging your bets?”
Here’s an on-my-easel photo of the painting at the stage where I wanted it to dry thoroughly before continuing.
This is the painting as it was when I decided it was finished. I even have a title — Weather Forecast for the Minch: Occasional Showers.
And this is the back, how the two canvases were held together with wide masking tape for painting. The reason for doing it like this rather than on a single, larger canvas is that it’s easier to transport.
Sometimes I think the hardest thing about painting is deciding on a title. I declared this small seascape finished yesterday, but still have to find a name for it. It’s inspired (as so many are) by the view across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides, on those mornings when the sunrise turns the clouds pink and their reflections turn the sea pinkish too. If you’ve any suggestions for a title, do post a comment!
This painting is 30x30cm (about 12×12 inches), and when viewed at full size is larger-than-life, the photo below gives an idea of the layers and details.
“The Majestic Minch” is the largest painting I’ve done on a single canvas, at 150x90cm. I could have laid it flat on my studio floor if I’d moved all sorts of things to create a large enough space (read: “not my idea of fun”) but, instead, once I’d decided I would tackle it (read: “this canvas sat around for years intimidating me with its size”) I waited for some dry weather and took it outside (read: “let’s play in the sunshine”).
The initial challenge was how to eliminate all that intimidating white. I had the composition/colours in my head, a summery Minch seascape, when there are little pink flowers (thrift) blooming along the coastline, with “interesting greys” in the water, and the line of outer isles. So out came the squeezable bottles of acrylic plus a big brush and some water. Oh, and a bit of canvas to catch runs of paint, because I was working on a slight slope.
First down was Prussian blue, spread across the sky area to cover all the white and broken up where there’d be sea. Sprayed this with some water to help spread it and to let it run, and spread with a brush dipped in water, hence the blue on the dropcloth. Then some yellow, which brushed mixed with the blue to give green, then golden ochre, light pink and white, which were spread and mixed for the shoreline, and then golden ochre for the distant islands. Because it was sunny and dry, the paint was drying quickly but not instantly (this is Skye after all), giving time to move it around and mix on the canvas somewhat.
The angle of the next photo makes the brush handle seem longer than it really is.
I added more layers of blue-greys, mixed in a squeezeable bottle so I could pour it out across the canvas, gradually getting lighter in tone and greyer in colour. I also added glazing medium and water to the paint bottle. I don’t have any photos because I was having too much fun painting to stop. The big size meant walking around and stretching over, and remembering to go edge to edge not only do the middle.
I left it outside to dry, moving it onto the grass where it is more level, then moved it into my studio onto my easel for the pondering stage and, ultimately, the final rounds. Most significant change was the distant islands, knocking back the bright colour without obscuring it completely and adding some “rain”. I also worked on the sea, adding in darks?and lights, spray on the shore (read: small additions, lots of pondering, more additions and tweaks).
Used in this painting:
Genie Canvas Collapsible Canvas, not available in the UK). I was sent one some years ago to review when I was still writing Painting.About.com; I still think it’s a clever, useful concept and it seems to have been refined since, but they’re not cheap.
Amsterdam acrylics for the initial layers. A ‘student’ paint that I find a good balance between quality and price, with strong, clean colours.
Liquitex String Gel. The “flows like honey” medium that works for me only when it’s warm enough, and then it’s great for strings of colour on a seascape. Most of the year it sits around as my studio’s too cold and it “flows like jam” (i.e. doesn’t).
Artist’s quality acrylics for layers above the initial colour, Prussian or phthalo blue plus burnt umber and white to produce various greys. My current favourite brands are Golden and Schmincke, but I use all sorts.
A wide coarse-hair brush. Look for a “thin flat varnish brush” and go for wider than you initially think; it’s for getting large areas painted fast, not details.